Thank you, Zunino: A Goodbye Message from Mariners Fans
May 26, 2018. The Mariners battled the Twins into the bottom of the 12th inning locked at 2-2. My family headed for the exits, but I knew that Mike had the swing to get a ball into the cheap seats.
“THIS. GAME. IS. OVERRRR!” was heard through the Seattle Mariners airwaves as Mike Zunino shattered Edgar’s sign over the left field fence on a 2-out fastball. The fans that remained at Safeco Field saw a magical moment.
In hindsight, it was the last walk-off home run Mike Zunino would hit in a Mariners uniform. Jerry Dipoto shipped Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia to the Rays in return for OF Mallex Smith Wednesday afternoon. And while the Mariners will begin their search for a new catcher, fans will miss Zunino’s skills behind the plate.
Despite his expertise as a catcher, he will be widely remembered for his offensive struggles, most recently in 2018. A hot month of September lifted Zunino to a slash line of .201/.259/.410, just above the dreaded Mendoza line. Unfortunately, these numbers are not out of the ordinary. A massive bounce-back year just isn’t likely, as his career numbers are .207/.276/.406.
Mike still is one of the most underrated defenders in baseball. Ironically enough, Zunino won the Wilson Defensive Catcher of the Year just hours before he was dealt with Tampa Bay. His 12 defensive runs saved in 2018 led all of the major leagues.
Offensive catchers are hard to come by. I get it. It is exactly why I am not here to slam his batting. In fact, his power is extremely valuable in addition to his defense, making him a strong replacement for Wilson Ramos in Tampa Bay.
I am here to praise Mike Zunino and his efforts in Seattle. The man is a walking backstop. His ability to work with pitchers and call games will be missed. A class act player like Zunino will be hard to replace, regardless of whom the Mariners sign to replace him this winter.
We thank you for the 575 games you suited up for in a Mariners uniform. We thank you for more than the 95 home runs you hit, but for the 40 defensive runs, you saved behind the plate. And most importantly, we wish you luck in Tampa Bay, where you will represent a team that is just 113 miles from your hometown of Cape Coral.
Thank you for representing Seattle with class. Thank you for being a Mariner.